969 F.2d 228 (6th Cir. 1992), 91-6241, John L. v. Adams

Docket Nº:91-6241.
Citation:969 F.2d 228
Party Name:JOHN L., Individually and On Behalf of All Other Persons Similarly Situated, by His Next Friend David Kozlowski, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Betty ADAMS, Commissioner of the Department of Youth Development, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 17, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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969 F.2d 228 (6th Cir. 1992)

JOHN L., Individually and On Behalf of All Other Persons

Similarly Situated, by His Next Friend David

Kozlowski, Plaintiffs-Appellees,


Betty ADAMS, Commissioner of the Department of Youth

Development, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 91-6241.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 17, 1992

Argued March 16, 1992.

Rehearing Denied Sept. 22, 1992.

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David A. Kozlowski (argued), Legal Services of S. Central, Tennessee, Columbia, Tenn., Susan L. Kay (briefed), Vanderbilt Legal Clinic, Nashville, Tenn., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Kimberly J. Dean, Asst. Atty. Gen. (argued and briefed), Mary G. Moody, Charles W. Burson, Atty. Gen., Office of Atty. Gen. of Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., for defendant-appellant.

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Before: BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge, LIVELY, Senior Circuit Judge, and TAYLOR, District Judge. [*]

BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge.

This case presents important questions about the existence and scope of the constitutional right of access to the courts in the context of incarcerated juveniles. For the reasons which follow, we hold that incarcerated juveniles do have a constitutional right of access to the courts, and that in order to make this right meaningful the State must provide the juveniles with access to an attorney. We hold, however, that there are limitations on the types of matters on which the State may be compelled to provide attorney assistance.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The district court set forth in detail the facts of this case in its initial opinion. John L. v. Adams, 750 F.Supp. 288 (M.D.Tenn.1990). 1 Thus, our discussion of the facts will be brief.

On November 7, 1988, plaintiff John L., by his next friend Andrew Shookhoff, filed this Section 1983 action claiming that he was being denied the right of access to the courts. When this suit was filed, plaintiff was 17 years old and was incarcerated in the Taft Youth Center in Pikeville, Tennessee, one of the State's secure juvenile institutions. Plaintiff sought, and was granted, class certification in June 1989. Therefore, plaintiffs are the class consisting of persons who are confined or will be confined in the secure institutions operated by the Tennessee Department of Youth Development (the "Department"). 750 F.Supp. at 289.

Betty Adams was named the defendant in her official capacity as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Youth Development. As a result, we will refer to the defendant as the "State". The State operates four secure juvenile institutions, or "Youth Centers": Wilder, Woodland Hills, Taft, and Mountain View. Two of these institutions are new, and at the time of the district court's first opinion all were in the process of gaining accreditation by the American Corrections Association. As of early 1991, there were just over 500 youths in these institutions, and it is the Tennessee legislature's intent for these facilities to have a maximum total population of 588 youths.

Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on liability, and on February 28, 1990, the district court granted plaintiffs' motion, holding that (1) juveniles incarcerated in secure facilities have a constitutional right of access to the courts, and (2) the defendant has failed to provide the plaintiffs with adequate, effective and meaningful access to the courts. At the request of the State, the district court permitted the State to submit a proposed remedial plan. The question of an appropriate remedy was briefed by the parties, and the district court held an evidentiary hearing, after which more briefs were submitted. The district court then entered its remedial order.

Under the court's remedial order, which incorporated substantial portions of the State's proposed plan, the Department will let four separate contracts to have private attorneys provide part-time legal assistance to juveniles at the four secure institutions. The billing rate on the contracts is currently capped at $75 per hour. The contract attorney or attorneys at each institution will be permitted to bill the state for up to eight hours per week for their work with the juveniles. 2 The contract attorneys' function is to speak with juveniles who request to talk with an attorney, to perform the factual and legal research necessary to comply with Rule 11, and either to advise the juvenile that he or she does not have a meritorious claim or to prepare appropriate pleadings to be filed pro se with a motion for appointment of counsel. The

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attorneys are instructed to "urge use of the grievance procedures established at each institution to solve any and all claims," but use of those procedures is not a requirement.

Under the district court's remedial order, the issues that the contract attorneys may pursue are: (1) fact or duration of confinement and conditions of confinement (i.e. commitment appeals, post-commitment petitions, habeas corpus petitions, and civil rights complaints); (2) any Eighth Amendment claim whether based on deliberate indifference to serious medical needs or based upon cruel and unusual punishment arising from maltreatment by officers; (3) unconstitutional conditions of confinement of any nature; (4) any due process claim; (5) any equal protection claim; (6) Departmental transfers if it is determined in an appropriate case that the State statute or policies create a liberty interest; (7) any other claim which could be the basis for a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (8) any claim involving the treatment program and education issues.

On October 18, 1991, the State filed a timely notice of appeal. The appeal encompassed both the district court's finding of liability and its remedial order. On appeal, the State argues that the plaintiffs have no constitutional right of access to courts, and even if they do, the district court's remedial order is broader than the scope of that right.

II. The Constitutional Right of Access to Courts

A. The Contentions of the Parties

In the district court, plaintiffs argued that as incarcerated individuals they have a right of access to the courts. The district court agreed. After discussing cases in which the Supreme Court recognized the serious consequences of juvenile incarceration, the district court stated, "The same concern for the seriousness of juvenile detention which requires the recognition that juveniles have constitutional rights to procedural protections at juvenile commitment hearings motivates this Court to recognize that incarcerated juveniles have a right of access to the courts comparable to incarcerated adults." 750 F.Supp. at 291.

On appeal, the State contends that the district court erred in recognizing such a right in juveniles. The State supports this argument by citing certain differences in the way in which adults and juveniles are treated under Tennessee law. The great majority of these differences are not material, however, since it is the fact of incarceration which is the most significant similarity that the plaintiffs share with incarcerated adults. As the following discussion of relevant case law demonstrates, it is simply too late in the day for the State's argument to prevail.

B. Sources of the Constitutional Right of Access

On numerous occasions the Supreme Court has recognized the existence of a constitutional right of access to the courts. On several occasions, the Court has identified the source of the right of access in the prisoner context as the Due Process Clause. Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 61 S.Ct. 640, 85 L.Ed. 1034 (1941); Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 490, 89 S.Ct. 747, 751, 21 L.Ed.2d 718 (1969); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 52 L.Ed.2d 72 (1977). Recently, the Supreme Court has noted that the right of access to the courts is also rooted in part in the Equal Protection Clause. Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1, 109 S.Ct. 2765, 2771 n. 6, 106 L.Ed.2d 1 (1989).

Outside the prisoner context, the Court has found support for the right of access in the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, Chambers v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co., 207 U.S. 142, 147, 28 S.Ct. 34, 35, 52 L.Ed. 143 (1907); see also Smith v. Maschner, 899 F.2d 940, 947 (10th Cir.1990), as well as in due process of law, Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 91 S.Ct. 780, 28 L.Ed.2d 113 (1971). The Supreme Court has also held, "The right of access to the courts is but one aspect of the right of petition [of the First Amendment]." California Motor Transp. Co. v. Trucking Unlimited, 404 U.S. 508, 510, 92

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S.Ct. 609, 612, 30 L.Ed.2d 642 (1972). In Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 104 S.Ct. 3194, 82 L.Ed.2d 393 (1984), the Court tied this First Amendment right of access to the prisoner context. The Court stated, "Like others, prisoners have the constitutional right to petition the Government for redress of their grievances, which includes a reasonable right of access to the courts." Id. at 523, 104 S.Ct. at 3198 (citing Johnson v. Avery ).

C. Supreme Court Authority on the Right of Access in the Prisoner Context

The Supreme Court first discussed the right of access in the prisoner context more than fifty years ago. In Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 61 S.Ct. 640, 85 L.Ed. 1034 (1941), the Court invalidated a prison regulation which required that all petitions for writ of habeas corpus be screened by the prison legal investigator before they could be sent to the court...

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